On Thursday, World No. 2 Rafael Nadal eased past USA's Michael Mmoh in just an hour and 47 minutes to reach the third round of the 2021 Australian Open. But in the post-match interview, the Spaniard admitted that his back problems were still not "under control".
Nadal had first hinted at a possible injury during the ATP Cup, as he pulled out of the singles matches despite being initially named on the schedule. And now that the Australian Open has begun, the 34-year-old is seemingly still not back to his best - despite what the lopsided scorelines of his first two matches may suggest.
Nadal has been forced to take some pace off his serve, and his movement hasn't been as free as usual. When asked about his back issues on Thursday, the Spaniard echoed the sentiment from his post-match interview two days ago - claiming that he was trying his best to get in shape as quickly as possible.
"No, not under control, honestly," Rafael Nadal said when asked whether his injury was under control. "No, I am keep doing the things that I can. If you see my motion on the serve is different than what I would like."
During his first-round victory over Serbia's Laslo Djere, Rafael Nadal's average first serve speed was estimated to be 10 mph lower than his average first serve speed during the Nitto ATP Finals last year. The reason for that is abundantly clear now that he himself has clarified he has altered service motion to adapt to his compromised back.
The 34-year-old asserted that he was 'trying to find solutions every day' as he navigates his way through the draw.
"I am trying to find solutions every day. I just keep fighting for find a solution," Nadal added.
Rafael Nadal's back injury is just the latest in a series of unfortunate physical problems Down Under
This is not the first time that Rafael Nadal's campaign Down Under has been hampered by an injury. Nadal had his first bout of injury leading up to the Australian Open in 2006, when the Spaniard was forced to withdraw from the event due to a foot injury.
Nadal went on to win his only Australian Open title three years later, but would subsequently suffer almost non-stop bad luck at the tournament for the next decade. He was forced to retire with a knee injury in 2010, and he injured his hamstring in the fourth round of the next edition.
In 2012, Rafael Nadal called time on his season after Wimbledon due to tendinitis in his knee. He had planned to return at the 2013 Australian Open, but was forced to withdraw at the last minute due to a stomach virus.
Nadal vowed to make amends in Melbourne the following year, and he even managed to reach the final. But he pulled his back just hours before the match against Stan Wawrinka, thus seriously hampering his chances of victory.
Nadal then had a relatively injury-free run at the Open until 2018, when he was forced to retire in the fifth set of his quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic due to a hip injury.